Vilonia flight nurse’s quick thinking helps save a life

No, she wasn’t working, but she was flying. “I was taking my daughter to Disney World in Florida for spring break,” explained Air Evac Lifeteam flight nurse Amber Neumeier. “The flight was full with about 45 rows and three seats per side. Towards the end of the flight, the attendants called for any nurse or doctor who might be on board.”

At first she didn’t respond because she was traveling with her six year old daughter and didn’t want to leave her. “But when no one else seemed to come forward, I headed to the front of the plane,” she said. “By the time I got up there, two doctors had stepped forward, but were still discussing who should assess the patient. They asked me what I did and I told them trauma flight nurse. That’s when they agreed that I was probably the best to handle the situation,” she laughed.

It was her understanding that the man had gotten up to go to the restroom and fell in the aisle. “He appeared to be nauseous and sweating, but was still conscious, so I did a blood sugar test. Then the stewardess asked if I needed anything else, like the AED.

“I didn’t think I would really need it, but I asked her to go ahead and get it out. Shortly after this the gentleman rolled on his side and he passed out. I quickly hooked up the machine and it told me that he had a shockable rhythm. So I used the AED to shock him, we started CPR and the AED suggested another shock,” Neumeier said. “After the second shock he began breathing again on his own.”

An AED is an Automated External Defibrillator that is found in most public places, including schools, malls, civic centers and even airplanes. It is a device that can offer life-saving defibrillation capabilities to rescuers and it is designed with clear, easy-to-understand voice and visual instructions, so even rescuers with little to no training at all can use them.

“These machines are great because they actual talk a person through the procedure. Once opened and turned on, the pads are placed on the victim’s chest per the instructions,” she said. “Then the machine takes over and gives you details on what to do next. It will tell you if the heart rhythm is irregular and if it might recover with a defibrillator shock. That’s what I meant when I said he had a shockable rhythm.”

The plane was only about 15 minutes from the airport when this happened and they radioed in declaring a medical emergency and were able to quickly land. “There were paramedics ready when we landed and they took over the man’s care at that point,” Neumeier recalled. “The doctors and I had started CPR and after using the AED a second time the man opened his eyes and began breathing again on his own.

“It wasn’t that big of a deal,” she said, “but I was glad I was able to help and that the plane had an AED on board.” He appeared to be exhibiting signs of a heart attack with no actual chest pain. This is not completely unusual but he was lucky to have someone with medical knowledge including two physicians and a trauma nurse to help him.

Neumeier is a new flight nurse with Air Evac Lifeteam in Vilonia, Ark. She started in November 2010 and was excited to get to come back to her home town to work.

“I first got interested in nursing while helping to take care of my grandparents as they grew older,” she said. “I got my LPN certification and worked for four years before I went on and obtained my registered nurse status.”

Neumeier attended Baptist School of Nursing in Little Rock, Ark., and worked for four years at University of Arkansas Medical Sciences in the trauma center. She graduated from high school in Vilonia in 1998 and enjoys working there again. “I am always running in to someone I know. The high school I attended is actually right across the street from the base, so there are lots of memories and friends still here,” Neumeier pointed out.

The Vilonia Air Evac Lifeteam base was established in February 2003 and is located at 9 Bise Drive. Crews, which include a registered nurse, paramedic and pilot, are on call at base 24 hours-a-day, seven days a week. They provide on-the-scene medical care, rapid transport to medical facilities and critical care inter-facility transfers. Each helicopter is equipment with state-of-the-art medical equipment and crewmembers are trained in advanced pre-hospital care so medical care can begin at the scene and continue en route to the hospital.

For more information about Air Evac Lifeteam services or membership call 1-800-793-0010 or visit